Scotland’s planning system has become jammed by costly appeals from wind farm companies, with some cases overdue by up to nine months.
There are 34 proposals being considered by the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA), with 16 of those requiring a full public local inqury.
In almost every case, the wind farm has been refused planning consent by the local council and the operators have appealed to SNP Ministers to overturn the verdict.
Each appeal can cost tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money, diverting local authority cash away from frontline services at a time of increasing budget pressures.
The revelation comes just months after the DPEA warned that budget and staff reductions would slow down the speed of the appeals process.
Linda Holt, spokeswoman for campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said: “Councils in areas targeted by wind developers increasingly refuse new wind applications because they believe they have reached saturation point, but there is considerable financial pressure on them not to.
“Appeals cost everyone money, and local authorities such as Perth & Kinross have sometimes found themselves forced to pay the applicant’s expenses (eg Drumderg) as well if the appeal is upheld.
“If a local authority objects to an application for a wind farm over 50 MW, this triggers a public local inquiry, which can cost the public purse £100,000 plus, with local authorities having to find tens of thousands of pounds to pay for expert witnesses and legal representation.
“This provides a strong financial incentive for cash-strapped local authorities not to refuse or object to a wind application, if they feel Scottish Ministers would be minded to approve it anyway.
“Developers do not pay the full economic cost of assessing and determining wind applications, and it falls to taxpayers to cover the shortfall for decision-makers and statutory consutees.
“This figure runs into the millions for the thousands of turbine applications which have bedevilled Scotland in recent years. It is no less than another covert subsidy for wind speculators.”
The oldest outstanding appeal is the 24-turbine Stranoch Wind Farm at New Luce, Wigtownshire, which was passed to the DPEA on August 1, 2014 and had a target decision date of March 13, 2015.
The DPEA’s latest update said the final report should be delivered to Scottish Ministers by “mid-November”.
Eight other appeals have gone beyond the target decision date, including the 50-turbine South Kyle Wind Farm, near Dalmellington, Ayrshire, and the 39-turbine Strathy Wind Farm extension in Sutherland.
The proposed wind farms have all proved controversial in their local areas, resulting in an often complex and lengthy appeals process with up to 1,000 documents for the Reporter to consider in each case.
One appeal, relating to the third phase of the giant Whitelee Wind Farm on Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow, has even seen allegations of poisoned drinking water.
The plans for the Braemore Wind Farm, near Lairg, Sutherland, have seen plans for a £6.5million redevelopment of nearby Carbisdale Castle put at risk.
Scottish Government figures show that 50 wind farm appeals have been decided by the DPEA so far in 2015/16, with 25 granted and 25 refused.
A spokesman said: “Our planning and environmental appeals department takes a rigorous approach to all appeals that it handles. We have significantly reduced the timescale for appeals in recent years and this year we have met the target for making a decision in 80 per cent of cases.”
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